In short: A great little low profile event, fine on the day, but lacking advance organisation and communication In full: I wrote at some length about this event last year and the reviews here give a fair idea of what to expect on the course. It is a great early-season marathon on a pleasant three-lap course. No marching bands, no balloons and no dancing girls, just a good old-fashioned country run on a route with a couple of undulations and a good opportunity to see if you really have kept the training momentum up through November and December.
The one place where it really falls down is in the advance communication. If you have done this event (or indeed any Beyond The Limitations event) before, you'll know what to expect and EVERYTHING WILL BE FINE ON THE DAY. If it's your first, you would probably - and justifiably - feel a bit peeved.
I sent a 3x4 stamped addressed envelope in with my entry as requested. A couple of weeks before the event, I got one of those dreaded cards from the local delivery office telling me there was a ransom to pay on a letter addressed to me. I guessed immediately what it would be! Sure enough, several pages of pre-race information had been folded and refolded into the envelope so that it would not fit into the relevant slot in the moneygrabbing Post Office's template. And I already had this information from the website! Nothing additional - no race number, no warning that contractors had barricaded off the car park in the Severn Vale school and that parking would be limited, no purpose to it at all.
Beyond The Limitations are expanding their portfolio and there are some fabulous events there. If they are going to make this work, they really need to improve the upfront communication. Regulars will know that it will all work out fine, but this laid back (or disorganised) approach leaves a lot of people with a negative experience. This could so easily be eliminated. That's my contribution to the constructive criticism!
As for the race itself, we were again fortunate to have a dry and still day, so excellent running conditions. Drinks stops were fine. Oh yes, one more thing - why were we not told in advance that drinks could be handed in for transportation to one of the stops? This is a great service to offer, but I found out about it by chance. How much better it would have been if it had been communicated properly!
The route is great and huge props are due to Norman and Anne Wilson for hanging on to the Longney/Epney circuit in the face of antagonism from unfriendly natives. One marshal said that there had been complaints about runners obstructing cars. Er, the other way round, surely?
Thanks to John for a few miles of company in the middle stages. My race fell apart with cramp in my calves at about mile 17, which was a completely new experience and not one I want to repeat. Progress was slow and irregular after that and I couldn't even take up Michael's offer of a tow to the line from a couple of miles out! Still, a good experience overall and you certainly learn something new with every marathon. I reached a landmark with this being my tenth sub 4:00 outing, so that was nice!
Good to have a medal - equally I liked last year's glass memento and it's good to have some form of "trophy". A banana or some other solid would have been very welcome at the finish, especially because it was quite a long wait for a seat on the coach.
In summary, I would return to this event again wihtout hesitation, even if I knew that the organisation was going to be similar to this year. It is a really good opportunity to kickstart the Spring training programme and a very nice run on a good course. Date of review: January 27, 2011
In short: Every bit as good as the 2009 event. In full: I took part in the Abingdon Marathon for the first time in 2009 and duly spent the winter waiting for entries for the 2010 event to open. This is a deservedly popular race and it fills up pretty quickly. The number 42 may or may not be the answer to life, the universe and everything, but it was certainly the answer to my race entry.
Once again, I decided to get up early and face the 80 mile drive from Bristol via the M4 and the A34 rather than stay in Abingdon overnight. There is plenty of parking at Abingdon College at 7.00am and marshals were already on hand. There is a fifteen minute walk to the sports centre in Tilsley Park and already there is a sense of occasion with "Road Closed" signs and marshals all over the place.
Having mentioned marshals twice already, I'll say here what a fantastic team they are at this event. The road closures are partial and so some of the run is on open roads. In a couple of places, this involves crossing two-way traffic or negotiating T-junctions with cars all around. The marshals do a spectacular job, both controlling the runners ("Don't cross yet, stay on THIS side!", "Cross HERE!") and stopping the traffic. This means that I felt safe and secure running into the road and across the traffic when instructed to do so. No hesitation or change in pace required. This is a well-drilled team! Thanks to all of you!
Back to the start. This is a good location and everything seems to be on hand. There are refreshment stands, vending machines in the Sports Centre, clothing lockers and plenty of warm spaces indoors. I failed to check my gel supply until after the shops closed on the Saturday, so if there are any running shop managers in Abingdon who are wondering whether it is worth putting up a stall next year, well, you would have had one customer (who would have spent a pound or two!).
The course was the same as in 2009 - a five mile outward run, two nine-mile loops and three miles back to base. It is flat and, again, it was the ramp up from the underpass in the town centre that seemed to provide the steepest challenge. I like the course. The commercial estate (twice) isn't to everyone's taste, but it's only a mile or two each time and it's certainly traffic free. It's also the adopted home of fetchpoint! I use the fetch website and I’m not sure whether that makes me a fetchie (I wasn't wearing any distinguishing logos), but the fetchpoint is definitely worth a visit. On the first lap, I ran through without being noticed, but they had warmed up by the second lap and were making a huge amount of noise for all the runners, fetchies or not. Great stuff!
The scenery is mixed, but there is enough variety to keep it interesting. From the turkey farm (did that solitary escapee that seemed to be running down the drive to the road ever complete the marathon?) to the river and the rowers, from the bells of St Helen's Church to the footpath section that may be an old railway line, it kept on changing.
There are a couple of comments below about the water cups. I am in two minds about this. Having campaigned successfully for a switch to bottles at the Chippenham Half, I don't feel the same need to do so here. Firstly, the event is over a month later and the temperature lower, so you don't need to take on so much liquid. Secondly, the water supplies are supplemented by two lucozade stops and two sponge stops, so you are not totally dependent on having a good drinking-from-open-beakers-while-running technique. I'm really not sure about this one.
The stadium finish is very good. It's a tough run in, with the winding route around Tilsley Park and then a lap of the track, but the good thing is that there's no sense of anti-climax. Finishing arrangements and the "funnel" work really well and the goodies are appreciated - water, goodie bag, medal, a great T-shirt (top marks for the colour and the techie material) and a free hot drink. Good changing facilities and showers too.
Many thanks to the organisers for another excellent event.
In short: Another steady performance from the organisers of the Bristol Half In full: I like this event! This may be partly because Bristol is my home town and this means that race day involves meeting family, friends and fellow club runners, both on the course and in the galleries, but there's more to it than that. There is no doubt that, whatever the glitches (and this year's problem with the chips was one of the more serious failings of recent years), this is a competently organised city centre event. I have just written my review of the Chippenham Half, which I ran the following week and which really is in a league of its own, but I have to say that the Bristol Half is pretty good.
The event website and advance organisation all seem to do the job and there is plenty of information for inexperienced and experienced runners alike. The wave starts are clearly described and seem to work. Any problems arise from runners being silly about their predicted times, not from poor organisation. The control on the day over numbers and allocation of runners to start pens is firm but friendly and I would say that it is pitched about right.
As for the course, it doesn't suit everyone, but I like it. It is undoubtedly a fast course, which is why Bristol has attracted some elite runners (both here and for the 10k) over the years. The Portway sections allow runners to get smoothly through the first eight miles and the stretch along Cumberland Road offers more of the same. The later miles do have some twists and turns, but any frustration at this is, for me, outweighed by the growing sense of "city centre" atmosphere and increasing support. And as for the comments about the cobbles, if you ever did London in the days of the cobbles in front of the Tower of London, you would find Welsh Back pretty insignificant in comparison!
Excellent support around the finish and a competent finishing funnel. Given the howling mess that some cities make of mass participation events, I think that Bristol City Council should be congratulated for their role in this event. (As a resident, I'm pretty critical of a lot of things that they do!) It makes me think that I might even switch disciplines and have a go at the Olympic distance triathlon that is rumoured to be on the cards for 2011!
The day was wet and this provided some good running conditions. Thanks to all the marshals, drinks station teams and assorted officials for keeping it all on track! I was a bit slower than last year, but beat my main rival for the first time this year after two defeats! Now I'm off to sign up for the 2011 10k. Date of review: September 17, 2010
In short: I thought that the 2009 event was as close to perfect as it was possible to get, and then I discovered 2010! In full: I took part in this event in 2009 and wrote a review that was full of praise and positives. What can I add? I have thought about this carefully and now, nearly a week after the event, I want to mention one big positive and one big negative.
The positive was the switch from paper cups to plastic water bottles. I wrote about the paper cups last year and received a really friendly message from the Race Director, explaining the detailed discussions that the Race Committee had held before the 2009 race on this very matter. They had taken into account environmental issues, cost factors and even the litter problem, in that runners carry bottles further and discard them over a greater area. Eventually they decided to go with the paper cups. Since then, I have come across paper cups at several events and worked hard at getting more of the contents into my mouth and less down the front of my vest, so I was all set for them again this year. With my cup-grabbing technique finely tuned, imagine my surprise when I was handed a bottle - with a sports cap to boot - at the three-mile mark. Suddenly my race strategy was in tatters!
I understand all the arguments against plastic bottles, but I am delighted that the Race Committee agreed to give the switch a try. From comments on the day and in these reviews, I think that this has been pretty much universally welcomed by the runners. I accept that some compromises on matters of principle have been made, but I do think that this is the right answer. In particular, the warm weather this year made the bottles even more welcome, because I found myself taking a drink and then sprinkling some of the contents over head and shoulders to stay cool. So it’s a big "thank you" from me to the Race Committee on this one.
And now for the negative. The announcer on the PA said that only five members of Chippenham Harriers were running, because all the rest were involved in organisation, marshalling and other duties. What a shame that the people responsible for this event cannot experience it from on the track! What a noble sacrifice! OK, so it’s not a real negative, but I feel that drawing attention to this is a way of acknowledging the work put in by so many people to make this event such a success. Thank you, all of you, whoever you are!
I don't intend to copy and paste the full contents of last year's review, but would like to comment briefly on one or two of the highlights again. The venue is excellent and the race village has a nice atmosphere, both before and after the event, as well as being well equipped. I am not sure what will happen when it rains, but the last two years have been warm and dry, so it has all worked fine. An indication of the organisers' continued striving for improvement is shown in the way they amended the pedestrian route from and to the car park from last year. Only a small matter, but it makes a difference. And there were loads of portaloos again!
At the start, the use of signs to sort the runners with estimated finish times *and* race pace is inspired. I still have not encountered this anywhere else, though! The course remains excellent. This year, a lot of us found ourselves taking the longer route on the curves in order to benefit from the shade offered by hedges (perhaps that accounts for me being five minutes slower than last year?). I must say that I didn't find miles 11 and 12 as bad as I had remembered from last year – there is some incline, but it is really quite mild. And if the legs are still working, the last mile is definitely quick!
The finish is set up nicely as a spectator event, with runners approaching the finish gantry along two edges of a playing field. Plenty of noise and cheering and a commentator on the PA system too. (I'll have to come back next year, just to see whether he pronounces my surname right third time round!) This all creates some good event atmosphere at the end. A well-organised finishing funnel with medal, goody bag, drink, de-chipping point and a banana. A special mention for the technical T-shirt; nice to see this when quite a few other events seem to have switched to cotton (are you listening, Bristol?). Results again up very quickly and some good options on refreshments at the race village.
In conclusion, this remains one of the best events of the year. Sorry guys, I have no constructive criticism to offer this time! Keep up the good work!
In short: A reliable and enjoyable event on a fascinating course. In full: I see with some surprise that this is the fourth time that I have run in this event. I ran once in 2008, twice in 2009 and may well run twice this year too. Why do I keep coming back? Well, there is something about this Castle Combe motor racing circuit that says to me "I am a fast course" and that, together with exemplary organisation by dbMax, seems to draw me back. The dbMax team are making quite a name for themselves as they expand their range of events and if they are all like this, I wish them well. (I suspect that they are; I took part in the Trowbridge Triathlon this August and that was excellent too.)
There is not a lot to add to my previous reviews. Advance information via the website is excellent and the location is quite obviously set up with loads of competitor and spectator parking and facilities. I was accompanied by two members of my family this time and they both took part in the duathlon (run-bike-run) which took place on the same circuit a couple of hours earlier. It's a good location to be a spectator as well as be a competitor.
The 10k is pretty strightforward - no routefinding challenges here! The course is in open countryside, so competitors usually have to be prepared for a headwind somewhere on the circuit. One drinks station en route, so you pass it every three kilometres. The finishing spur is well laid out and the chip timing process works well. Results are posted very quickly and there is a medal too. I must say that I would not mind not receiving a goody bag at this event and would be happy just to be handed the medal and a cereal bar, rather than a large and nearly empty carrier bag, but that is the only suggestion that I have for improvement.
In conclusion, this is a great 10k run and you know exactly what you are going to get. Give it a try! Date of review: September 15, 2010
In short: Enjoyable local event which, with its three challenging hill climbs, is a bit different from the usual In full: This review is in respect of the August 2010 review, but unfortunately the RW website only allows a single review per annum, even for a series of events.
To be honest, I haven't got a lot to add to my previous comments. If you fancy a 4 mile (or slightly less?) multiterrain run which includes three short sharp hills, then this is for you. The organisation, by my home club Westbury Harriers, is informal but works perfectly well. Simply turn up, complete a short application form and pay the fee. The run is on a mix of grass, paths and woodland tracks and finishes at the local landmark of Blaise Castle, which just happens to be at the top of a hill!
The marshalling is good - and it needs to be with all the woodland twists and turns - and there is plenty of sawdust used for route marking too. A no frills event - give it a try and, if you like it, come back the next month and do it all over again! Quite a few runners do so - the field is usually over 100 strong. Date of review: September 15, 2010
In short: Excellent value for money, fantastic scenery and good organisation. If it wasn’t for Hurlstone Combe, I would want to do this run every month. In full: I had taken part in the Seaview 17 in 2009 (my review is somewhere below this one) and it was one of a small number of events that went straight onto the planner for 2010. A lot of runners seem to be regulars at this event, so what is it that draws them (and now me) back again?
In no particular order, here are five highlights of the day.
1. The route. The Seaview 17 is run along approximately 20 miles of the South West Coast Path, starting at Countisbury in Devon and crossing the border into Somerset, where it finishes in Minehead. 2009 had been cloudy and dull, and this year it looked for a while as if the visibility would be just as bad, with rolling grey clouds hanging over Exmoor and the coast. They soon cleared and the route unfolded with lovely stretches of woodland, tracks, fields and paths and occasional views to the sea.
2. The hills. There are two big climbs. The first, at about 4 miles, leads up to the drinks station at County Gate and the second, at around 14 miles, is the ascent of Hurlstone Combe, which is close on 1,000 feet from sea level to summit. There may be people who run up this one, but I’m not one of them ...
3. The organisation. This is a fairly low key event - it doesn't, for example, seem to have the same reputation as the Exmoor Stagger, organised by the same club - but the organisation seems to work. From the handing out of running numbers at the mobile race HQ (Fred’s van!) to the coach transfer to the start, from the route marking to the remote-controlled camera at the finish, everything seemed to work. And as for Fred, I am still trying to work out how it was that he was present at almost every checkpoint I ran past. Are there lots of people who look just like him in Minehead?
The cost. Something else I am trying to work out is just how Minehead Running Club does all this for six pounds. I know there are lot of volunteers (more about them in a moment), but the coach hire must cost a pound or two and there is still apparently a surplus that is forwarded to the race charity. Fantastic!
The tea. Here's the more about the volunteers. Maureen and team, you did us proud again. Thank you!
And, in the interests of balance, my five grumbles.
One. I ran slower than last year.
Two. Er, I think that's about it.
I will admit to a sense of foreboding as I crossed the flat land between Porlock Weir and Bossington, with the big hill gradually looming larger and larger, and I never really got back into my stride after reaching the top. The weather was a little warmer and I was carrying a little extra weight, but these are just excuses!
In conclusion, this really is a super event. Massive thanks to the organisers and the marshals. Date of review: July 26, 2010
In short: A challenging multi-terrain run which packs a lot into a short distance. In full: Westbury Harriers stage this event three times a year and it usually takes place on the first Monday of June, July and August respectively. I had taken part in the third Blazer of 2009 and decided to have another go. I could remember all too clearly the three steep hills on a course of just under four miles and wondered whether this return would be a mistake!
This was the middle of the three 2010 events and was a very low-key affair. Race entry is very simple with a short application form to complete on the night, following which running numbers are handed out. There was a short race briefing and we walked a couple of hundred yards to the start. In the meantime, with Monday being a regular club night, the majority of runners present assembled and departed for their regular training runs, leaving about 80 of us to toe the start line.
The route measured 3.6 miles on my Garmin this year. There is a lot of tree cover in various places and so this may not be entirely accurate. The first quarter of a mile is on grass and allows the field to spread out ready for the narrower sections which follow. The first of the three hills is on a tarmac road surface which, as it is designed to accommodate vehicles, is not too challenging. Then down through a wood, over earth slopes and tree roots, to grassland and surfaced paths which lead to the start of the second hill, which I reckon is the toughest of the three. None of the hills is particularly long, but the second one is steep and I was soon struggling past runners who have been transformed into walkers. Down the other side and onto another grass section, then grit your teeth and attack the third hill. Again quite short, but there is a pathway with steps cut in which certainly didn't match my stride. At the top of the hill, a final sprint to the finish line in the shadow of Blaise Castle, a folly on the top of the hill.
This is a friendly event and runners were clapping each other in. I was disappointed to find that there was no water at the finish, but it is only a five minute stroll back down to race HQ where water was available.
In summary, this is very much a local club event and it is accordingly quite minimalist. Thanks to the organisers and to all the marshals, who were on hand at the more tricky changes of direction and who had distributed lots of sawdust markers before the run. Very good value and a friendly event.
In short: A fascinating multi-lap marathon which was made more interesting by the simultaneous running of 50k and 100k events. There are, however, a couple of things that the organisers really should sort out when planning next year’s event. In full: Warning: a long review coming up as there aren't many here!
I signed up for this on a bit of whim. After a disastrous VLM, I was keen to run a marathon at a steady pace and if possible to record a Season's Best. Up popped the Boddington Marathon in the event finder and, once I had got over the disappointment of learning that the brewery of the same name wasn't sited anywhere close, I decided to put in an entry. There has been a 50k here for some years and the organisers, who aren't known for their attention to detail in advance of an event, had decided to add not only a marathon, but also a 100k event on the same course. Were they biting off more than they could chew?
I submitted an on-line application via the RW site. This seemed to work fine, but the acknowledgement of entries was somewhat haphazard, with some runners receiving emails and some hearing nothing at all. There was no rhyme or reason to this - it was simply confusing. Then, about 10 days before the event, a Runners' Information Sheet appeared on the beyondthelimitations website. This was a really helpful document and included details on registration, the layout of the course and clear driving directions to a rural location which is well off the beaten track. As has been observed elsewhere, the website management is minimal and anyone expecting regular updates will have been disappointed. The organisers stated that runners' numbers would be posted on their website. Nothing appeared. Oh well, it was evident that registration and collection of numbers was on the day, so let's just hope for the best. Norman and Anne Wilson, the organisers, have received some criticism over recent years in relation to lack of information about their events and this seemed to be following the same pattern. It would be very easy to provide just a little more information that would give entrants the confidence that it’s all under control.
The course is worth a mention. All three events were being run on the same 3.5k loop. This made for a fascinating morning of lapping and being lapped. It was certainly pretty awe-inspiring to be lapped by 100k runners within a few laps of the start! The arrangement meant that there was always something interesting going on. The main drawback is that you really do have to regulate your own pace carefully, because you cannot assume that the runners around you are doing the same thing as you. I must say that this added enormously to the interest of the race.
The marathon was measured to finish outside the race HQ and so the start was part way round the course. This offered a pleasant ten minute warm-up stroll. The starter readied us and off we went – all 30 of us. What? Only 30? It transpired that the other half of the marathon field had attended a briefing at race HQ and, immediately following this, had set out for the start. There had apparently not been enough time for them to walk from briefing to start before the gun! Ho hum! There was naturally no little amount of disappointment afterwards about this hitch. Something else for the organisers to iron out for next year.
I set out at a steady pace and was soon joined by Michael. We ran 16 miles together, at which point I decided to risk striking out for the line. Bad decision and he duly overhauled me with about three miles to go! Thanks for your company, Michael! An interesting feature of a twelve lap race is that there was a single drinks station, with the result that you always knew exactly where the next one was going to be. Props to the organisers for arranging to transport individual runners' drinks to the drinks station before the start. This worked really well and I quickly realised that other runners were picking up their drink, carrying it for 100 yards, then caching it at the roadside ready to pick up again on the next lap. What a great idea! By the end of the race, my two bottles were positioned almost at opposite sides of the course to allow frequent refuelling.
Reports from previous events suggested some problems with lap counting. This year, we had chips as well as marshals, so all looked promising. As I passed the end of the loop for the penultimate time, I was reassured to hear the marshal call "One to go for you". As I approached it for the last time, ready to peel off onto the finishing spur, I was dismayed to hear him call "You've still got one more lap"! Well, my Garmin and I chose to disagree with him! "No, I haven’t, I’m going this way!" Ho hum again!
And so to the finish. Excellent post-race atmosphere as the marathon runners and the first 50k finishers came in. Good showers, an excellent cake stall, race results available on a laptop and a nice little glass memento. All in all, a most enjoyable outing. I hadn't been sure what to make of the multiple laps, but it was an experience not to be missed and it certainly allowed you to think about the race strategy in a completely different way from normal. The course was also very flat and potentially very quick. Thanks to the marshals, the drinks station crew (who looked as if they were having a party every time I passed) and to Norman and Anne – in spite of the odd organisational gremlins.
In short: A most enjoyable local event on an interesting course - very well organised. In full: I had heard of the Towpath 10k but never realised that it was pretty much on my doorstep. I investigated the Great Western Runners ("GWR") website and found out that there was a limited number of places available on the day, so I quickly completed an entry form and dropped it in to the organiser's address with less than 24 hours to spare. This did the trick and, when I turned up at the Race HQ. my running number was ready and waiting. A quick and efficient turnaround! GWR clearly have a well-oiled administrative process for this series of races, including offering runners the ability enter a single race or the whole series. In addition, the website made the entry process very straightforward and there was good information on deadlines etc.
The start is in Greville Smyth Park, just round the corner from Bristol City football ground, and on a warm Summer's evening, this was an ideal opportunity to meet other runners and compare notes on recent and forthcoming runs. I caught up with lots of fellow runners from Westbury Harriers and I must say "Hi" to Suzie from Chepstow! All of a sudden, the peaceful evening was rudely interrupted as we were summoned to the start line. Oh well, better do some running, I suppose. Top marks to GWR for the way they organise this event. The entry fee is only £6, but they have invested in a big inflatable start gantry, a proper digital clock and hundreds of yards of fencing to mark the part of the course that goes through the park.
The run is on mixed terrain, but this is a pretty flat course and is the scene of more than one PB time. The start and finish are on grass, there is a small amount of pavement and the majority is on a pathway which is well compacted gravel/earth and which is absolutely secure in dry weather. Although the path is called the towpath, it actually runs along the bank of the River Avon and I would be surprised if it had ever been used for towing vessels. A nice route which includes running under the Clifton Suspension Bridge. The route simply goes out to a 5k marker (and marshal) and doubles back on itself. This means that, from about 4k onwards, runners have to keep left as the faster/slower runners are steaming along in opposite directions on the same narrow path. There is plenty of room for two runners to pass, but it means that you have to adopt a surge technique when overtaking. Although this straight out and back is quite unusual, it certainly helped me get through that 6k to 8k region that can sometimes be tough and was an unexpected opportunity to greet fellow runners!
There were clear kilometre markers, which was good, although the 3k/7k marker had been moved about 400m closer to the 2/8k marker than it should have been, presumably by a mischievous passer-by. Good marshalling presence throughout – thanks to all – and a drinks station near the 2k/8k mark.
I make no apologies for going on at some length about an event which must be very much of local significance only, but this type of run often seems to be overlooked by reviewers and I hope that it is helpful to future readers to have an up-to-date review logged. I enjoyed this a lot and will definitely be back later on in the series. These runs have been taking place for some years now and GWR have created a deservedly popular series which attracts a lot of local interest.